Case delayed for man accused of killing 3-year-old Sophia Acosta

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A man accused of killing a toddler was in court Thursday. His defense team is trying to get the death penalty off the table but the hearing has been postponed.

The family of 3-year-old Sophia Acosta gathered outside a courtroom on Thursday. Cameras weren't allowed to show the toddler's accused killer, Christopher Cheary, in court. His defense team is trying to get the death penalty off the table. However, the hearing was continued until October 6th.

"Recently they've been subpoenaing information from the prison system and we're stuck dealing with those issues," said David Alavezos, a supervising prosecutor.

Sophia would be seven if she were still alive today. Instead her life was cut short in May 2011 when she was found injured and not breathing. Less than a month later Christopher Cheary was arrested by Exeter police. He was dating Sophia's mom.

Cheary faces murder and sexual assault charges. There are special circumstances attached to those charges that if convicted could mean the death penalty. Alavezos says death penalty cases include a penalty phase trial after the regular trial.

Alavezos added, "The defense can present all kinds of evidence for why life without possibility of parole is more appropriate punishment than the death penalty."

The trial is set to start in January -- that's what the family has been wanting for more than 4 years.

"We are seeking justice, we know they want justice and its gonna take some time to go through the process," said Alavezos.

The prosecution says they've been ready for the trial for two years.

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